Shireen: A multisport athlete finds her calling with basketball

The Pune girl first took up roller skating, dabbled with swimming before trying her hand in snooker. She has represented India in the netball event at the Commonwealth Games in 2010.

Shireen is part of the Indian national basketball team.   -  Special Arrangement

Every player’s aspiration is to represent the country at the highest level and when one gets a chance to play for the country in a tournament as gargantuan as the Commonwealth Games, it can be safely said that a career in the sport has been made.

But that is not the case for 22-year-old Shireen Limaye. Just days after representing India in the netball event at the Commonwealth Games in 2010, Shireen switched to basketball and in a matter of time she was leading the state team, Maharashtra, and became a pivotal member of the Indian national team.

Basketball runs in Shireen’s DNA. Her parents and her brother played the sport and her mother Suvarna Limaye, a former national player, is also a coach. It was natural that Shireen picked basketball but that wasn’t the case initially.

The Pune girl first took up roller skating, dabbled with swimming before trying her hand in snooker. “The first sport was skating. I loved skating as a kid and I was the champion in my city,” a tired Shireen said, after her team staved off a stiff challenge from Rajasthan in the ongoing 68 Senior National Basketball Championship in Chennai.

However a casual visit to the PYC Gymkhana Club in Pune got Shireen hooked to snooker. “My uncle is a snooker player. There was a world championship happening in the club and I took a liking to the sport instantly. My uncle urged me to take up the sport as it would help me in my concentration. And I ended up playing professionally,” she added.

Shireen has played snooker as a professional.   -  Special Arrangement

 

But the love for power endurance sport couldn’t keep Shireen hooked on to the green baize for long. “I loved netball and basketball. I started playing basketball from the age of five when my mother took me to a game. Once I started playing, I developed an interest and some state coaches spotted me and urged me to channelise my love in a proper way. That’s when I started going for coaching and developed my skills. I went to play netball when I was 14 and that was when people told me and I realised that I could play netball too,” she explained.

Shireen even has the unique experience of playing alongside her mother for Pune’s netball team. “That wasn’t for long though,” she said.

But in the end it had to be basketball. “Basketball just hit me. I needed to take it on. I had a lot of friends playing the sport and parents were also involved, I had to take the sport up. I was involved with the game from the age of five,” Shireen said.

Playing a variety of sports has definitely helped Shireen mould herself as a better sportswoman. “Skating and swimming has helped in my fitness. Playing netball has helped me in my agility. There is no dribbling allowed in netball and it is all about passing the ball quick. Snooker has helped me with my concentration levels,” she said.

Playing basketball for about 8 years now, Shireen, at just 22, is a senior in the team. “It is good to have players who look up to you. It also in a way helps me perform better and keep raising the bar. I prefer to motivate anyone with my game rather than talking,” she said.

Shireen doesn’t want to experiment in any more sports and has decided that basketball is her calling. “I am exploring the opportunity to go abroad and play. That’s how you get better – by playing against a quality opposition and good team-mates. I want to eventually play in the NCAA (college basketball) and WNBA too,” the Maharashtra player noted.

But how is the sport developing in the country? “We (the women’s team) are doing better. We performed well in the FIBA Asia in Bengaluru and also finished fourth in the Asia-Oceania group too. A pro-league for women would work wonders for the sport, just like how we have the UBA for men,” she added.

But for now, Shireen’s focus is on helping Maharashtra reaching the knockout stages of the national championship.

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